Gillette faces consequences for spying on consumers

August 11, 2003

CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering) is calling for a worldwide boycott of Gillette products since the company failed to renounce a Gillette Mach3 "smart shelf" spy system.

"We have corroborated evidence that a Gillette 'smart shelf' fitted with radio frequency identification (RFID) devices can sense when packages are removed from a store shelf and, in response, take pictures of consumers handling them," says CASPIAN founder and director Katherine Albrecht. "Tracking and photographing consumers without their knowledge and consent is unacceptable."

CASPIAN sent an open letter to Gillette VP Dick Cantwell July 21 requesting information about the smart shelf and Gillette's item-level RFID tagging of consumer products. The group also sought assurances that the company would not condone the photographing and tracking of consumers anywhere in the world.

"Since Gillette failed to renounce the photographing and tracking of innocent shoppers, we can only conclude that they plan to continue down this ill-advised path," says Albrecht. "We want to send a clear message to Gillette and other companies that consumers will not tolerate being spied on through the products they buy."

Albrecht theorizes that Gillette could face other consequences besides loss of revenue from their actions. "Photographing adult consumers has already cost Gillette a loss of consumer goodwill. But just imagine if a picture of a minor is snapped without permission. Gillette will have a firestorm on its hands if its shelf photographs a teenage girl as she bends down to examine Venus shaving products. Her father, his attorney and the whole world would be knocking on CEO James Kilt's door."

A copy of the open letter, evidence of Gillette smart shelf trials and pictures of tagged products are available at the group's new boycott Gillette web site:

Gillette is currently the leader in nearly a dozen consumer product categories. Their products include well-known brands like Gillette razors and shaving products, Oral-B toothbrushes, Braun appliances and Duracell batteries. A more complete list of their products is posted at to help consumers avoid purchasing Gillette products.

Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN) is a grass-roots consumer group fighting retail surveillance schemes since 1999. With members in all 50 U.S. states and more than 15 nations across the globe, CASPIAN seeks to educate consumers about marketing strategies that invade their privacy and to encourage privacy-conscious shopping habits across the retail spectrum.